Millennium Post

Decoding the Modi Mantra

You may have wondered over the past fortnight, where could Narendra Modi be. In this short span of last one year, when he has sought to launch himself as prime ministerial candidate, he has been growling, scowling and some times, grovelling, for your support to his candidature.
Almost every week over television and newspaper columns, Modi visage has loomed over you never letting you be free for thinking on your, what could it all be? But Sunday, on the front page of the venerable Times of India (TOI), one discovered Modi again, giving an inkling of the microcosm of what lay in store.

The TOI report claimed that between Friday evening, when Modi arrived in Dehradun and Saturday, when the correspondent’s report was finally sent to the New Delhi office of the newspaper, Modi apparently rewrote a chapter in disaster management, unmatched even by the mighty army, air force and the navy: he organised the evacuation of 15,000 Gujaratis, the report claimed. He came in the company of his entourage, the TOI report says, of five IAS officers, one IPS officer, one Indian Forest Service officer, two Gujarat Administrative Service officers, two deputy superintendents of police and five police inspectors. The resources for mobility he commanded were equally impressive: 80 Toyota Innova SUVs, four Boeing air crafts and 25 luxury buses. Very presidential and decisive!
But, the problem lies precisely in this model! As soothsayers say, prudent people should see to it that ‘history should not repeat itself,’ in these early days of the run-up to the general elections that would elect 542 members of Parliament, the BJP is beginning to show that it is ready to replicate the mistakes of 2004 - of making the general polls into a presidential contest. At that time they sought to pit Atal Behari Vajpayee against Sonia Gandhi.

They came out with the message of ‘Shining India,’ the people of which were adorned in suits made by Raymond cloth – an advertisement of the company had Lal Krishna Advani drooling with admiration. While those suits were nattily worn by the BJP ministers like Arun Jaitley, Pramod Mahajan et al. On its part Congress found the aam aadmi who could barely
clothe themselves.

Now, of course, the Congress has shown its own colours of being full of crooks and brokers, who have had a party these ten years, stealing the people blind. They have had finance ministers, who have failed to curb inflation; they have failed to ensure that state governments some which were of their own, provide 100 days of work – the bare minimum now legislated – and stop the general loot.

Yet, ironically, two of Modi’s most important poll planks, of Hindutva (a form of muscular revivalism of what is commonly considered Hindu religio-cultural symbols) and of growth and development, is under early attack. The first is from within his party – the BJP – led by Lal Krishna Advani, the party’s original Hindu icon, who is synonymous with Raths and Ram. Advani’s rebellion against the party’s selection of Modi as the chairman of their campaign committee, under RSS tutelage, has the potential to severely undercut Modi’s muscular Hindutva, based on the role he played in Gujarat in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident.

On the other hand, the plank of growth and development, is now strained by the departure of Nitish Kumar-Sharad Yadav –led Janata Dal (United) from the BJP-led coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). In Bihar, not only has Nitish carved out a caste-class alliance of the utterly poor and governmentally ignored social groups, but he has also created a Bihar model of development. This has produced state domestic products that have leapt ahead of all other states, barring Guajarat.

But Gujarat, people argued was always one of the top performing states in terms of economic development. It had ports, roads, electricity and industries much before Narendra Modi could claim his legerdemain about what is called by his fawning acolytes, ‘Modi model.’
On the other hand, Nitish had nothing going for his state. Bihar denoted the first two letters of a word coined by a Bengali economist of all people, Ashish Bose, called BIMARU, which is a coinage signaling ‘ill-health.’

But after Nitish Kumar’s first stint as chief minister, another Bengali, Shaibal Gupta, secretary of a Patna-based think tank, Asian Development Research Institute talked about the ‘Nitish model’ of economic development, that seemed to have rebounded on the Cassandras. In an interview to a prominent business daily, Gupta talked about the consistent 11-12 per cent growth rate of Bihar as a result of high public expenditure that went into building basic infrastructure like roads and bridges. Also, Nitish Kumar was largely able to de-criminalise the society in Bihar where the gun ruled. This has given people confidence to indulge in normal activities of commerce, unfettered. That has also been backed by higher allocation for education and health, decline in birth rates etc.
So, it can safely be said that no adroit media management will help Modi to rise to the coveted chair of the prime minister. What with all the challenges he faces, he may just decide to do what Rahul Gandhi has done – to go to better climes for beating the heat.
The author is a senior journalist

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